Dan Corry, a PhD student in the UI Department of Epidemiology, sustained a mild concussion after falling while snowboarding 15 years ago. He didn’t know then that this injury would set him on a career path in injury epidemiology and lead to a dissertation on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
“It was a strange experience—I lost about three hours of my memory immediately following the injury that I don’t think I’ll ever get back,” he said. “But other than that, I’ve had no residual, long-lasting side effects, and I have moved on with my life.”
A few years later while pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Corry worked as a research assistant with the Injury Prevention Research Center at Emory (IPRCE), a sister center of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center (UI IPRC). He engaged with the center’s traumatic brain injury task force, which he said helped him recall his concussion experience.
“I started to make connections between TBI and mental health on a personal level,” Corry said. “I started to ask things like, ‘Why did I turn out fine after my concussion, but others have long-lasting effects after their injuries?’”
At the UI College of Public Health, Corry is now doing his dissertation on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health and overall health-related quality of life in veterans with a history of TBI. He said active military members are at an increased risk of a TBI, the prevalence of which can range from 11 to 23% among those deployed.
“The veteran population is at an extreme risk of developing symptoms of mental illness when coupled with an increased prevalence of TBIs,” he said.
Corry is also working on a project with Dr. Corinne Peek-Asa (called INITIATE – International Collaboration to Increase Traumatic Brain Injury Surveillance in Europe) to identify how trauma care for traumatic injuries and types of injuries affect the health and quality of life of TBI patients in three Eastern European/Central Asian nations: Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova. These low-middle income countries experience some of the highest rates of TBI in the world.
Collaboration is so important to how public health functions, Corry said, and this is no different than his experience working with the UI IPRC.
“While I’ve always felt compelled to strike out a bit more independently with respect to my own projects, I have grown to rely on the experience of others at the IPRC to make sure I’m on the right path.”
Corry was also selected as a 2021-22 graduate teaching fellow at the UI Center for Teaching.
Hannah Rochford, a PhD student in the UI Department of Health Management and Policy, interned with a domestic violence shelter during her master’s degree training. There, she saw safety barriers faced by victim-survivors, their families, and victim services advocates.
“I realized my biggest opportunity to support victim-survivors and their allies was by empirically identifying the policies that would reduce the number of individuals and families affected, and position those experiencing violence to achieve long-term safety and healing,” Rochford said.
In one of her current projects with the UI IPRC, she is looking at how state education, economic, and victim services policies affect child maltreatment outcomes (general maltreatment, abuse & neglect) in the U.S. For example, she will examine if there is a relationship between state mandates for educators to receive training on how to recognize and respond to child maltreatment and rates of child maltreatment.
If teachers suspect a child is being maltreated, Rochford said, they must take steps to report this harm using the channels defined by their state and institution. However, she said mandatory reporters (like teachers) are not universally required to receive training on how to recognize signs of maltreatment.
“While some of these signs may be intuitive, like regular bruising or physical injuries, others are less obvious, such as withdrawal, sudden changes in temperament, intense attention seeking, hiding food for later, or hesitancy to go home,” she said.
Rochford is also examining if states with higher victim services funding have less reported child maltreatment cases and if the economic security of women (i.e., through state childcare subsidies) reduces the reported volume of child maltreatment cases.
Recently, Rochford helped compile a compendium of secondary data sources to explore the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on interpersonal violence and injury rates. She is also first author on a commentary published in Injury Epidemiology describing this tool for injury & violence researchers.
In addition, Rochford was selected for the 2021 UI IPRC summer internship with the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control (NCIPC) at the CDC. Her internship focused on the public health issue of MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls). Her projects included conducting a literature review and reviewing state action plans on this issue in their Rape Prevention & Education programming.
“I was deeply saddened by the realities I found: MMIWGTS (TS stands for Two Spirit – gender nonconforming individuals) is an extension of the historic exploitation and systemic violence perpetrated against AIAN (American Indian & Alaska Native) people,” she said.
Rochford said policy has historically been used as a tool to undermine the sovereignty of the AIAN community and their ability to make use of their own governing systems to protect AIAN individuals from missingness (often related to trafficking and gender-based violence) and murder.
“The policy landscape has created a fragmented jurisdictional web and compromised the public health and justice sectors’ ability to have reliable data with which to understand the scope of the problem and develop an evidence-based response,” she said.
One reason Rochford said she chose to pursue her PhD at the University of Iowa was because its injury & violence researchers were committed to put research into action for policy change.
“Knowing I would learn about how to contribute evidence-based solutions to policy-relevant questions, as well as about how to help those solutions take root to have impact in policy and practice, drove my choice to study violence prevention at the University of Iowa.”
Published October 6, 2021
Other related resources:
- Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders: Education & Training at the UI Injury Prevention Research Center
- Handout: Saving lives and protecting communities through injury and violence prevention at the University of Iowa
- Students taking on injuries & violence (UI IPRC blog post)
- Injury Prevention in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities